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Where does Mursi’s ouster leave the Brotherhood?

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

The wave of detentions that the “new” Egyptian regime has carried out against the Muslim Brotherhood is just temporary, imposed by the coup’s circumstances and the fear of a backlash from the Brotherhood or its supporters, which would open the door to a strife that is rejected by all.

Such relations do not match with the spirit of the first revolution (January 25), which the second revolution (June 30) was said to take place in order to correct the first one’s course.

The civil forces are also expected to recover from the revengeful glee, return to their principles and reject the detention of their Muslim opponents. They should also refrain from suppressing media freedoms and promoting the exclusion of the Egyptian media.

The Muslim Brotherhood shall stop conducting demonstrations under the banner of “restoring legitimacy,” and be contended with their statements that they have sacrificed themselves and died for the sake of the democratic principles and the rule of the people.

Gracious in defeat?

They know (or should know) that they cannot overthrow the new mixed regime consisting of soldiers and civilians, enjoying the approval of the state (Mubarak’s regime) and the regional powers.

The main conflict within the group lies between two currents: a tenacious current that believe that the MB is an united fortress that is leading the community, and another current that believes that the MB are one of many national groups

Jamal Khashoggi

The demonstrations that overthrew Mursi’s government were led by the people and financed by the old regime, external forces and media conspired to make it happen. On the other hand, the MB’s demonstrations lack all of that: everybody will harshly deal with its demonstrations because they “threaten national unity.”

Since all the previous assumptions have actually happened, it would be better for the Brotherhood to accept– even if reluctantly – the status-quo by recognizing this reality and not the existing regime; they should return to the arena they master, conducting political work. They should not be lost in conspiracy theory even if it was true and even if there was a group that wanted their collapse. They have fallen by themselves; is there a greater mistake than choosing the weakest leaders to lead the most dangerous phase? They must be convinced that the millions of Egyptians, who took to the streets on June 30, are real and sincere.

The Brotherhood now has several missions; the most important one might be assessing the hatred and rejection of it steered by a large group of Egyptians. It is a greater loss than the loss of power, and it requires answering the question “why do they hate us so much?”.

There are easy answers such as “those who hate us are remnants of Mubarak’s regime, or “they are against us because they are not religious;” these answers might be consoling but they are not correct. The first step is to admit that the Brotherhood lost a lot in the heart and mind of the average Egyptian citizen. They should not rely on the international community's rejection of this coup because it is just a routine procedure from Western powers.

The pressure is on

The pressure will now be on the new authorities to swiftly announce a roadmap, conduct early elections and prevent the exclusion of any party. This is how they can get back to cooperating with other national forces even if I expect some of them to exclude and humiliate the MB and try to push others to refuse to cooperate with them: I know that this would be childish behavior, but politics in Egypt is unfortunately full of it.

The Brotherhood should internally reshuffle their group at the soonest, and then work on its political Islam that has lost a lot on June 30.

The Muslim Brotherhood constantly talks about changing the “misfortunes to fortunes”, so why wouldn’t they let this incident become a positive change for them. Maybe a wise person would tell them not to be bitter at what has happened, because it might be positive for them. The coup came at the right time to save them from the numerous errors they have been committing, ever since they decided to participate in the presidential elections. These errors can lead to the disintegration of the group from the inside.

What was leaked about the problems between the deputy leader Khairat al-Shater and the moderate leader Hassan Malek has raised many concerns. It is no secret that real MB members (Tharwat al-Kherbawi, the famous writer who has several books criticizing the Brotherhood, is not one of them) quietly left the group and kept mum for the sake of this critical phase that requires unity.

It is now the time to take into account and evaluate the gains and losses. It is also the time for a restructuring process that would protect the group from the corrosion that had hit it two decades ago and that led to the loss of the group’s eminent leaders; this was the main reason behind June 30 revolution.

The main conflict within the group lies between two currents: a tenacious current that believe that the MB is an united fortress that is leading the community, and another current that believes that the MB are one of many national groups; the second current is willing to cooperate, compromise and accept half-solutions. The first current is represented by Khairat al-Shater and the second one by people like Abu el-Ela Madi, Essam Sultan, Dr. Mohamed Mahsoub, and Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Any of the previously mentioned leaders would have been able to represent the political Islam and replace the ousted president Mohammed Mursi, who was just a regular MB member who suddenly reached power.

For many years, there have been calls for Erdogan’s reforms that are highly needed to be implemented in the MB, in reference to what Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did. It has always ended through the discharge of “Brotherhood” members. After January 25 revolution, these reforms took place when the MB formed an independent political party which is the “Freedom and Justice”; this was just superficial and insincere. It was just a cover-up. The worst decision taken by the isolated President (constitutional amendments in November, which was the beginning of the end), was not taken due to the president’s information from his intelligence and security services, but instead, it was based on the information and recommendations of the Supreme Guide’s office.

During the crises that President Mursi has caused or seemed to cause, many Islamic competencies emerged from outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s party. These competencies can better communicate with the other national forces; they were more convincing and fully committed to the national Islamic project, especially in the centrist party and the Salafist Nour Party. It is absurd to keep these currents apart.

Erdogan’s project says so and these currents cannot be unified as long as they receive their orders from the Brotherhood. Away from their judgment, and in preparation for the second round in the construction of the new Egyptian state, young Islamic forces shall seek a national unity project. This will necessitate a decision from the Brotherhood and their guide to stay away from the course of events and work on the advocacy of the Islamic ideology, not its details.

Would the Brotherhood be able to do it? Of course it can as long as its leaders, who lost the fight on June 30, assume their responsibilities. They should willingly resign and open the door for a new generation that understands and interacts best with the changes taking place in their society.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on July 7, 2013.
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Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

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